April 21, 2023 | OPINION | By AJ Fabbri
This story starts with our tragic hero: Donald John Trump. Trump was born at a young age, and he soon received a small loan of a million dollars for possessing a very important business skill: having rich parents. Now a successful businessman, he went on to play golf and make an appearance in the hit film “Home Alone 2”. At one fateful White House dinner, Barack Obama bullied Trump so harshly that the guy from “Home Alone 2” became racist – whoops, I mean “the least racist person in this room” – and ran for president to get his revenge. Bigly.
I can already hear the confusion as to why I put the words “Trump” and “hero” in the same sentence. Here’s the deal: I consider Trump a tragic hero because he made people feel engaged with what’s going on in our country to a higher extent than possibly anyone else in American history. Trump revolutionized the political space in a way that I believe has the potential to greatly benefit us.
Trump would have been my absolute favorite politician, if not for my staunch disagreement with almost everything he stands for. The exception? We need more bullying in politics.
I’m serious. Hear me out. Okay, maybe we don’t need more of the textbook definition of bullying, but I don’t think that ridiculing politicians through satire and name-calling is such a bad thing. Sure, I consider Trump a megalomaniac with disastrous designs for the future of America, but he was right about one thing: The ability to combine humor and controversy is an immensely powerful political skill, which almost no prominent members of the Democratic party have demonstrated any capacity for.
I remember being a middle schooler following the 2016 presidential election cycle. Back then, I considered myself a Democrat, and that hasn’t changed. I eventually went on to work for Democrats in politics because I believe in the party’s vision for the future of our country. However, in working for Democrats, I noticed the same thing that I did back in 2016: The Democratic party is boring.
Like so many others, I found myself simultaneously appalled and fascinated by Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric. In butting heads with the apparent values that our institutions were founded on, he reflected America’s increasing polarization, a change which had been taking place in the background of politics for decades. At the same time, I found myself largely ignoring the Democratic presidential debates; instead, I was glued to the Republican ones.
The difference? The Republican debates were entertaining. Whether or not it’s ethically ‘correct,’ by being generally inflammatory and throwing around names like “Little Marco,” “Lyin’ Ted,” and “Low-energy Jeb,” Trump attracted a new level of public fascination to politics. No matter how you felt about Trump’s name calling and his sexist and racist controversies, he glued people to the news. As a result, the 2016 election attracted record-breaking ratings for news organizations as well as record-breaking nominal voter turnout.
More people than ever had become engaged in civic discourse. At the same time, toxic anger and polarization were the driving emotions behind this engagement. Whether it was Trump supporters angry at the political establishment or Hillary Clinton supporters angry at Trump, the masses were more fascinated with politics than ever before. No matter the emotions behind it, engaging more people in civic discourse is a good thing for our democracy.
Of course, Trump did seem like he wanted – and still wants – to turn the United States into a pseudo-dictatorship. In directly attacking the democratic process, Trump exposed how he still wants revenge on Obama for roasting him. Oh, and how vulnerable we are to fascist authoritarianism. He proved that American society is failing so many people to the point that it threatens its own demise.
Taking Trump out of the picture won’t fix the problem. He is a symptom. With the Republican party increasingly resembling the fascists of the World War II era, it is evident that another anti-freedom wack job could simply take his place. As people who support basic things like freedom and state stability, what do we need to do to combat this?
As Democrats or anyone else who believes in creating a better future for our country, we need to step up our game. My problem with the Democratic party is that we have been too nice. We have fallen into a pattern that, if we let it continue, threatens to destroy America. Here’s how it goes: We win an election, we rest on our laurels, we let the Republicans walk all over us, repeat. It’s complacency at its worst.
For the Democrats, it’s always about trying to scrape by and barely win the next election (but not the election after that), and certainly not about how we can fix our country’s fundamental issues. All this preaching about the ‘good old days’ of bipartisanship and working across the aisle has resulted in nothing more than Democrats getting less done than they could while Republicans undemocratically consolidate power. There’s a reason Trump started calling them the Do-Nothing Democrats.
Remember that B.S. with Mitch McConnell blocking Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, only to completely flip-flop on his statement about ‘hurr durr we must not nominate anyone in an election cycle,’ resulting in a conservative supermajority that proceeded to strip away the rights of millions of Americans? I do.
In these trying political times, we must fight fire with fire. We need to truly engage people to the point that they no longer feel like they’re repeatedly voting for the lesser of two evils. As for how to do that, we just need to take straight from the Trump playbook but do so for causes that help people.
Trump’s genius was in constantly saying outrageous things to retain as much media attention as possible, and it worked. In fact, it’s still working. For as much of a terrible person as he is, he did have a sense of humor. His stubbornness helped him to get things done, even if those things were far from ideal.
I appreciate Trump’s ability to joke about his orange spray tan and come up with funny nicknames like “Rocket Man,” referring to Kim Jong-Un, and the more recent “Ron DeSanctimonious” for Ron DeSantis. These led to floods of memes that further engaged people in our civic discourse. A broken clock is right twice a day. Humor in politics is a good thing.
As for someone more wholesome, YouTuber and fifth-place London mayoral candidate Niko Omilana exemplifies my vision for the future of politics. His platform, which included freezing the Thames river with the help of his “friend, Elsa from ‘Frozen,’” providing “free transport for under 18s and over 69s”, and telling Boris Johnson to “shush,” attracted immense support from young people, earning him almost 50,000 votes and a podium spot in London’s 2021 mayoral election.
I’ve heard many people (me included) describe various politicians as a joke. This comes from a place of frustration with these politicians getting nothing done or simply being terrible people. The ability to use humor and ‘tell it like it is’ helps politics become more accessible and transparent to the public, a vital aspect of a functioning democracy. That’s the paradox of modern politics: by making it more of a joke, it will become less of a joke.
I think your piece is a privileged stance that undermines the polarity and irreparable damage Donald Trump inflicted on the United States. Your claim that “Trump revolutionized the political space in a way that I believe has the potential to greatly benefit us” is a blind assumption to those severely affected by his policies. What about those of us who were incredibly fearful of deportation or were denied entrance into the United States? For example, Trump’s Title 42 “allowed the administration to quickly expel migrants trying to cross the southern US border with Mexico – including asylum seekers – using the coronavirus pandemic as a justification.” Or my mother, who held dual citizenship, but because of Trump’s presidency, had to become a full United States citizen because of fear of being deported away from family, loved ones, and job security? Not to mention that Donald Trump is indicative of our failing democratic legal system — you promote the premise of “turning politics into a joke,” but do you support undermining justice systems that hold people in power accountable? Donald Trump met all of the criteria of becoming an authoritarian leader. Do you really think fueling his comments in the media or claiming that he is the answer to improving civil discourse is in any sense reliable? People became more polarized, less willing to engage in middle-ground dialogue, and more resentful of one another. The ‘so-called’ record-breaking news ratings are an absolute joke and utterly ignorant of the irrefutable damages to the trustworthiness of news. As Martin Gurri stated in The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium, “Media people pumped the helium that elevated Donald Trump’s balloon, and they did so from naked self-interest” (Gurri, 2018, p. 361). Comedian Michelle Wolf made this point even more graphically at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on April 28, 2018, when she blamed the congregation: He’s helped you sell your papers, books, and TV. You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting from him. This did not all happen at once. In 2016, they covered Trump as a celebrity and political wonder, which made the election campaign saleable. The mainstream media commodified the Trump scare and created extremist echo chambers that only benefitted Trump and legitimized his rhetoric. Rather than creating a well-educated, non-polarized press, Trump was used as a money-making scheme. American society was not left better off after the “Trump bump” because when we talk about politics, we do not talk about compromise or progress, but about the most controversial thing Trump, DeSantis, or whoever has said recently. “Tell it like it is” politics should not, and cannot be, represented through Donald Trump. I understand the need for civic discourse, but your examples and your jokes are incredibly insensitive to the mutilation that Trump’s presidency carried out on the reputability of the news and the social fabric of America. The harmful, normalized rhetoric has resulted in policy that still stands today. Is it a joke that our former president is embarrassing and panders to authoritarian leaders? Is it a joke that citizens feared their place in the United States because its president was allowed to incentivize hate on national television? Is it a joke that Asian Americans and Chinese citizens were repeatedly targeted after Trump’s disturbingly gruesome language? Is it a joke that our newsrooms clung to Trump’s rhetoric to fuel unprecedented levels of disinformation and polarity?
Please don’t use Trump as the basis for civic discourse. It is uninformed and comes off as extremely privileged.
yooooooooooooo this opinion piece tho